Law is the set of rules that a society or government develops to deal with issues such as crime and business agreements. It is also a discipline that examines how the body of law relates to individuals and societies. Lawyers and other legal professionals work with this system of rules.
A key aspect of law is justification. A legal justification is a statement explaining why a certain legal position or right exists. This explanation is based on other legal norms that are recognized and accepted by the courts or legislature. For example, a legal argument may state that Joseph has a right to his good name because the general rule is “every person has a right in their own good name.”
Another important element of law is powers and privileges. Powers are abilities a person (or entity) has to alter the normative landscape through their volitional action. Privileges are first-order rights that determine what a person may do or have to do, and immunities are second-order rights that dictate whether a person can or cannot do certain things. For example, a right to privacy is a privilege that specifies what a person can or cannot do with their personal information.
An individual can challenge the legality of an act, decision, or policy by filing a lawsuit. Lawyers for the plaintiff and defendant argue their case in court to convince judges and jurors to side with them. If a judge and jury agree, the defendant is found not guilty and the plaintiff is awarded compensation for their loss. If the judge and jury disagree, the case is sent to an appellate court for review.
Other terms and phrases used in law include:
arraignment – The process of bringing an accused criminal to court to be informed of the charges against them and asked to plead guilty or not guilty. The defendant is then told the legal consequences of their actions if they are found guilty.
brief – A written document that lawyers submit to the judge(s) before trial. A brief explains why the judge should decide the case in that lawyer’s client’s favor.
jury pool – The group of people from which the actual jurors will be selected in a lawsuit. The attorneys choose the actual jurors from this pool through a process called voir dire.
en banc – When the entire court of appeals participates in a session, rather than just a quorum. Courts of appeals often sit en banc for cases they consider to be particularly important or controversial.
law clerk – Assists judges with research and drafting of opinions. A law clerk can also serve as a librarian for a courtroom.
public defender – Represents defendants who cannot afford their own lawyers in criminal cases.
The rule of law – A principle that states that everyone is subject to the law, including legislators and judges. This contrasts with the rule of an autocracy or dictatorship, in which the rulers are above the law.